Les Merry Chevaliers & Death Becomes Even the Maiden Kick Off Jasper's Happy Hour Concert Series Wednesday Night atTrustus

The Jasper Project

Happy Hour Series

The Merry Chevaliers

The Merry Chevaliers

The Jasper Project is kicking off a new series of early evening fun on Wednesday with our first ever Happy Hour Concert featuring Les Merry Chevaliers and Death Becomes Even the Maiden.

The purpose of this series is to provide a mid-week time to listen to original local music, have a drink with friends, and still get home in time to put your kids to bed and not wreck your sleep schedule for the rest of the week. This is also an important fundraiser for Jasper Magazine.

We were thrilled when Alex Ruskell of the Merry Chevaliers volunteered their band to play and we are crazy appreciative of their generous contribution of time and time, as well as that of Heyward Sims and Death Becomes Even the Maiden, who will be opening for the Merry Chevaliers. (Blog post on DBETM coming up next.)

Come on out to Trustus on Wednesday night. Doors open at 6 for a cash bar, happy hour snacks, with music starting about 7.

Tickets are $10 at the door – or, join the Jasper Guild at any level and get in for free AND become eligible for the drawing of a pair of tickets to this year’s 2nd Act Film Festival coming up on November 7th.

Now, some words of wisdom from our featured musicians --

Jasper:  First of all, who are the Merry Chevaliers, what instruments do the band members play, and what are the members’ unique missions in the band?


LMC: Les Merry Chevaliers are France’s 14th favorite punk/pop band.  Les members are:

            Pierre Balz – rhythm guitar, glockenspiel, digeridoo – unique mission is to be fifth most handsome band member.

            Guillaume Guillotine – lead guitar -- unique mission is to be fourth most handsome band member.

            Garique Le Freaque – drums -- unique mission is to be third most handsome band member.

            Count De Monet – vocals -- unique mission is to be second most handsome band member.

            Menage O’Shea – Bass -- unique mission is to be most handsome band member.


Jasper:  Where did the concept of the Merry Chevaliers come from and how did you guys go about actualizing the idea into a musical group?

LMC: After a long night of drinking sweet claret and reading Rimbaud, the idea of dressing in French frippery and playing the dulcet tones of punk rock sprang fully formed from Pierre’s head like fair Athena in her gossamer robes.  While it is likely a violation of several sumptuary laws, the powdered wig hides Pierre’s bald spot.  The band formed when Pierre wrote some songs and asked his friends to sing along.  When they wouldn’t, he asked these guys.


Jasper:  How long have you been together?

LMC: We’ve been together for a year and a half, and have played shows in Columbia, Charlotte, Charleston, and Greenville.  We’ve also been featured on WUSC’s Columbia Beet, WXRY’s Unsigned, and Sirius XM’s Goldie’s Underground Garage.


Jasper: What kind of music do you play and why?

LMC: We play power pop punk – because we like it and think it’s fun for audiences to sing along and jump around to.


Jasper: What are your musical backgrounds and what do you guys do for day jobs?

LMC: Mssrs. La Freaque and O’shea have played in many other area bands.  The other three are rank amateurs.  For day jobs, we are all men of leisure.


Jasper: What do you want people to experience from your concerts?

LMC: Life can feel pretty dark sometimes – we’d just like people to have a little break to have some fun, dance, and laugh.


Jasper: What’s next for the Merry Chevaliers after the Jasper Happy Hour concert? 

LMC: We are working on our follow-up to 2017’s Never Mind the Baguettes, Here’s Les Merry Chevaliers! The current working title is Plus Grands Succes Volume Trois, and it will feature the world-wide mega hits “Faster than the Speed of Sexy,” “I Ruined Coitus for You,” “Sex Sommelier,” and “I’d Punch King Kong in the Balls for You.”


Jasper:  What did we not ask that you’d like our readers to know?

LMC: As part of David Hasselhoff’s divorce settlement, he kept possession of the nickname “Hoff” and the catchphrase “Don’t Hassle the Hoff.”


happy hour concert 1b.jpg

If you or your band would like to participate in Jasper’s Happy Hour Concert Series - a fundraiser for Jasper Magazine - hit up Cindi Boiter or Kyle Petersen.

REVIEW -- OnStage Production's Hairspray is a Jewel Worth the Trip

“…your eyes can deceive you; don’t trust them.”

-Obi-Wan Kenobi,
“Star Wars: A New Hope”

Tracy sends a cheerful "Good Morning, Baltimore!" to her hometown.

Tracy sends a cheerful "Good Morning, Baltimore!" to her hometown.

Okay, I will freely admit that the first couple of times I attended a show at OnStage Productions, my eyes concealed a perfect gem, literally at my feet. When one arrives at The Old Mill in Lexington, it looks like someone converted a couple of ancient warehouses into an upscale brewpub, added a small shop or two, then called it a day. While these establishments do exist, there’s also something quite special just a few feet underground.

Housed in a renovated downstairs area, OnStage has created  the look, feel, and atmosphere of a cozy, hip, Off-Broadway house. The space is a bit cramped, and has a slightly “rough at the edges” feel, as I firmly believe all good playhouses should. Be prepared to sit close to your seatmates, but that’s all part of the aura and style OnStage has created in building what could easily be a 100-seat, upstairs, Greenwich Village theatre. Just set your personal space requirements to “NYC mode,” and you’ll have a blast.


Speaking of blasts, Director Robert Harrelson truly blew us away with Saturday night’s performance of Hairspray, The Musical, which continues its run this Thursday-Sunday. With a cast full of talent, and some most innovative staging, Harrelson makes the show work like a well-oiled machine. The set, though simple in design, effectively creates the show’s various locales through a quartet of four-sided columns, outstanding use of lighting to suggest a specific space, and a never-ending flow of kinetic energy from the cast, who all move things around just in time to be perfectly in place for the next scene. The action of the play never wanes, nor does the seemingly boundless energy of the cast. One of the highest compliments I can give a musical is that it “never stops moving,” which perfectly describes this version of Hairspray.


And of the performance, itself? Well, it had me singing along with half the score, and laughing uproariously, often at the most inappropriate jokes and one-liners. Again, I must sing Harrelson’s praises for DOING THE SHOW AS WRITTEN. Hairspray, the John Waters film which gave rise to the musical, was subversive as hell, made fun of cultural stereotypes, and embraced the taboo with mischievous glee. The musical has toned down a bit of Waters’ signature vulgarity, but keeps its norm-shattering and cheeky storyline intact. Harrelson has not altered the script in any way, nor has he “bleeped out” a single potentially-controversial line. This is Hairspray as it was written to be played, not a sanitized-for-grandma production. (Incidentally, I saw several grandma-types laughing and enjoying the show right along with me.) Bravo for Harrelson for his faithfulness to the work, and the ensuing quality that comes with that integrity.

Charity Gilbert, Laiyah Smith, and Jamila Wicker raise the roof as "The Dynamites."

Charity Gilbert, Laiyah Smith, and Jamila Wicker raise the roof as "The Dynamites."

The cast has some double-casting, with about half the roles being played at all performances, with others alternating between two actors. My friends and I saw “Cast A,” and they delivered a fast-paced, turbo-charged, roller coaster of a ride that I’m sure is matched in quality by “Cast B.”

Leading the cast as Edna Turnbladt is Bradley Watts (who shares the role with Jeffrey Sigley.) Watts is great fun to watch, and throws himself enthusiastically into the part. There’s a definite nod to Harvey Fierstein’s Edna, but Watts makes the role his own, not only vocally, but also through the creation of a slightly softer, somewhat less acerbic Edna than we’ve seen from other productions. Without ever losing the comedy or the no-nonsense personality, Watts gives us an Edna that retains her strength, but never at the cost of her femininity. Her rapport with husband Wilbur, played in both casts by Theodore Reynolds, is spot-on, and the two clearly trust each other as scene partners, creating a snapshot of the trust and affection between Edna and Wilbur. Reynolds is appropriately goofy without ever resorting to mugging for the audience, and makes Wilbur the lovable doofus with great success.

As Tracy Turnbladt, Whitney McDonald shines in a role she is clearly delighted to be playing. Her talent is undeniable, and she’s clearly confident in the character choices she has made. A “plus-sized” social warrior and crusader for justice, McDonald’s Tracy is also quite lovely. (Think Nigella Lawson meets a Designing Women-era Delta Burke, with a dash of Adele thrown in,) and serves as a perfect example of how beauty not only comes from within, but also that outer beauty can take many forms. McDonald allows Tracy a sweetness that never compromises her commitment to equality and progress. As for her vocals, one word. Wow! Harrelson has clearly followed the old theatrical adage of “cast the best singers first,” and McDonald can deliver on a ballad or belt the paint off the back wall, without ever losing pitch or sincerity. (Tracy is played on alternate nights by Katie Edelson.)

As foils for the Turnbladt women, we meet Velma and Amber Von Tussle, a former pageant star, and her beauty-queen daughter, Lisa Baker and Zanna Mills, respectively, who share the roles with Leslie Dellinger and JoJo Wallace. Baker brings down the house with her “Miss Baltimore Crabs” number, and Mills, who demonstrated her skill at playing sweet and innocent as Mary Ann in last season’s Gilligan’s Island: The Musical, shows that she can play “mean girl” Amber with equal aplomb. Mills also makes her debut as a choreographer in this production, and the result is a series of well-rehearsed, toe-tapping, fun choreography that almost pulls the audience members into the aisles to boogie down.

As David LaTorre performs with both casts, I can quite literally say that there isn’t a weak (L)ink in the show. (Thanks, folks, I’ll be playing here all week.) In what could easily be a standard, Richie Cunningham-esque boyfriend role, LaTorre find’s Link’s humanity in every sense of the word. Neither Superboy nor “bad boy,” Link finds himself at several personal and ethical crossroads, and LaTorre conveys well his sense of conflict, as well as his desire to do what is right, even if it costs him. Ara-Viktoria Goins is a somewhat sexier Motormouth Maybelle than devotees of Hairspray may be used to, but it works brilliantly with the character’s believe-in-yourself philosophy. Goins, like McDonald, has a huge voice that can shake the rafters, as well as purr seductively, as she demonstrates in her performance of “Big, Blonde, and Beautiful.”

Ara-Viktoria Goins as Motormouth Maybelle.

Ara-Viktoria Goins as Motormouth Maybelle.

Much of the social statements in Hairspray center around the budding romance between Seaweed Stubbs (Joshua Wright) and Penny Pingleton (Camryn Harsey, alternating with Kari Tilghman.) Seaweed is black, Penny is white, and it’s 1962, so there’s plenty of era-based controversy over their relationship. While never preachy or heavy-handed, their story strikes at the core message of the play, which is that what’s on the outside doesn’t matter. Both performers approach the material with a light touch, but their message of social justice, equality, and the strength of unity comes through loud and clear. Wright and Harsey both bring strong voices and considerable stage presence to their roles.

Debra Leopard and Mark DiNovo, as usual, turn in memorable, fully-realized, enjoyable characters. While Leopard is a hoot as Penny’s religious-fanatic mother (and also shines in a smaller role as the High School principal,) DiNovo had me doubled over with laughter every time he took the stage. His two “bonus” roles in “Good Morning, Baltimore” and “The Big Doll House” are absolute side-splitters, and his lame-clad Mr. Spritzer is a delight. Linda Lawton Brochin serves up a couple of hilarious cameos, and Karlton Timmerman’s Corny Collins hits all the right notes as a smarmy-but-charming dance show host, and manages to show off a very nice singing voice, as well.

Were there a few negatives? Yes, but none that marred the experience. The musicians (yes, Hairspray utilizes live musicians, which I strongly support) could be a bit overpowering at times, but to be fair, we were seated fairly close to them. A couple of the soloists had to struggle with a note that was too high or too low, and I occasionally missed a lyric or two. There was one small glitch during a scene change, but by the time I even noticed, it had been corrected.

OnStage Productions is a short, 20-minute drive from Downtown Columbia, and I strongly encourage everyone to make that drive. Hairspray is slick, polished, well-paced, and provides a subtle reminder of the importance of equality and acceptance in society.


Hairspray concludes its run this Thursday-Sunday. Tickets can be purchased by visiting www.onstagesc.com

Frank Thompson is Theatre Editor for Jasper.

Next up for the Jasper Project?

Keith Tolen is our first featured artist in the

Tiny Gallery Series

Thursday, October 4th in

Studio #7 of Tapp’s Arts Center https://www.facebook.com/events/975033929365281/

REVIEW: South Carolina Shakespeare Company's The Liar

“Tell me lies, tell me sweet little lies…”

-Fleetwood Mac

the liar.jpg

 Due to Hurricane Florence, The Liar will end its run tonight!

There are plenty of lies in South Carolina Shakespeare Company’s production of The Liar, previously scheduled to run through Saturday at Columbia Music Festival Association, and not all of them are sweet or little. Actually, there are some absolute whoppers thrown down in this hilarious prevarication-palooza, which playwright David Ives has skillfully translated and peppered with contemporary references, some Shakespeare here and there, and just a hint of sympathy for the eponymous character. Based on the 1644 French comedy, Le Menteur, by Pierre Corneille, the plot is a delightful confection, with a storyline straight out of an episode of Three’s Company. Misunderstandings and mistaken identities abound, lechery is played for laughs, and the bungling anti-hero grows increasingly frantic as his schemes unravel. A somewhat deus ex machina conclusion solves everything by play’s end, and The Liar becomes an honest man…perhaps.


The show opens with a hilarious introduction by Cliton, manservant to Dorante, (who is the titular liar.) As Cliton, Sam Hetler  hits the bull’s-eye with his interpretation of the servant who is much more intelligent than his master. Though this archetype is a stock character in farce, Hetler brings a freshness and sincerity to the role. His is the only character to “break the wall” and address the audience, until Dorante concludes the show with a brief address. Hetler’s opening monologue is part rap, part straight pentameter, and part free-style. Were it not for his period costume (more on that in a minute), one might mistake him for the hands-down winner of an open-mic poetry slam. With his witty delivery and slightly-put-upon demeanor, Hetler masterfully draws the audience into the tale from the very beginning.

Played by SCSC regular, Jeff Driggers, Dorante is an eager young man who abandons his study of  Law to experience all the pleasures and diversions of Paris. (In a delicious twist of irony, Dorante is practically incapable of telling the truth, while Cliton has a comparable inability to tell a lie.) As Dorante, Driggers is a veritable dervish for most of his stage time. Constantly in motion, telling one falsehood after another, with his anxiety growing with every close call, I couldn’t help thinking of The Music Man, and how Driggers is surely destined to play Professor Harold Hill someday. His energy is seemingly boundless, and his delivery and timing are outstanding. My one complaint was that occasionally he spoke so quickly in his con-man patter, I had a difficult time catching each word, but his absolute commitment to the role and slightly over-the-top physicality left no doubt as to his meaning.


Soon enough, he meets two lovely young women, Clarice (Hillary MacArthur), and her friend, Lucrece (Mary Miles). Immediately proving himself a BS artist extraordinaire, he regales the ladies with stories of his battlefield heroism against the German Army. He immediately falls for Clarice, only to misunderstand when Lucrece’s maid, Isabelle, (Brittany Hammock, who turns in a delightful double role) describes her mistress as “the most beautiful one,” and sets his cap to win his inamorata, whom he now thinks is named Lucrece. The three female actors have no difficulty in keeping up with their male castmates, delivering unique, individual, characters who manage to create a cohesive trio (quartet?) without sacrificing or diluting any of their differences. Miles’ Lucrece is appropriately befuddled, without ever resorting to caricature, and uses her facial expressions to communicate just as clearly as her voice. As always, her time onstage is professional and artfully crafted. (After the show, I commented to Miles that if ever I open a playbill and see her name, I know to expect a high-quality performance, and The Liar was no exception.) As Clarice, MacArthur demonstrates not only comedic proficiency, but also an ability to play her unhappy moments with authenticity, while never compromising the overall texture of the silliness surrounding her. Although frequently distressed, MacArthur also provides a sort of calm within the chaos, treating the audience to a layered and complex character. Hammock, with a distinctive half-flowing, half-braided hairdo adding to the illusion, also plays Isabelle’s twin sister, Sabine, who just happens to be Lucrece’s maid. Though played by the same actress, the two roles are somewhat Jekyll-and-Hyde in their differences. Hammock proves that she can play sweet and salty with equal aplomb, and creates two characters with easily-identifiable differences in style and temperament, though I wouldn’t have minded a tiny costume change, such as a hat or scarf, to further punctuate the duality of the roles.


Things get even more turned-around when we meet Alcippe, Dorante’s best friend. Did I mention that Alcippe is engaged to Clarice? The traditional Comedie –Francaise misconceptions and mutually cloudy understandings leave Alcippe constantly vacillating between fury and thick-headed amiability. As played by Josh Kern, Alcippe has the capacity to turn his emotions on a dime (centime?) and clearly revels in playing a hothead and a pleasant fop. Having worked with Kern several times over the last seven or eight years, I have enjoyed watching a kid with a hell of a lot of raw talent grow into a seasoned pro who is quickly mastering his craft.


Also in the melee are Alcippe’s friend, Philiste (Morgan Wood) and Dorante’s father, Geronte (Douglas McConnell), who further complicate matters through relaying inadvertent half-truths and misinformation (Philiste), and arranging for Dorante to marry Clarice, whom Dorante thinks is named Lucrece. While these two roles are somewhat smaller than the rest, both Wood and McConnell make the most of their onstage moments, matching the rest of the cast in skill and commitment to the “reality” of the script.


A story about a midnight boat ride, a hilariously mimed duel, and countless moments of ensuing confusion add to the insanity, with a tidy-if-contrived happy ending for everyone. Director Scott Blanks clearly had a good time creating the frenetic insanity of the piece, yet never allows the chaos to go too far off the rails. Discipline and precision are essential when half the characters are frequently out of control, and Blanks expertly keeps the lunacy tightly blocked and well-rehearsed.

Costume Designer Janet Kile made the interesting choice of dressing each character in a combination of classical and contemporary fashion. (Kern’s plush blue great-coat and Driggers’ ornate vest work particularly well with blue jeans.) While not at all distracting, the costumes helped establish the timelessness of the plot, as does modern scene-change music. (Lady GaGa’s “Bad Romance” was an especially nice touch.) As Cliton, Hetler was the only character to appear in all-period dress, which served his character well, as he not only opens the show by addressing the audience, but comments frequently on the wild events that sweep him along for the ride.


The Liar is a perfect show for those who love classic farce, but it never shies away from its moments of modernity. Playwright David Ives not only translated, but also re-wrote parts of the script, adding multiple modern-day terms and expressions. As with Kile’s costumes and the 21st century music, the dialogue occasionally reinforces the message that similar shenanigans go on in 2018 as went on in 1645.



Frank Thompson is proud to serve as JASPER’s Theatre Editor, and can be reached via email at FLT31230@Yahoo.com

The Confluence of Art and Feminism - Figure Out 18 by Christina Xan

Figure Out "supports the mission of Planned Parenthood, which is to empower individuals to make independent, informed decisions about their sexual health and reproductive lives." - Molly Harrell, Founder


Artist Bree Burchfield - the beginning of girls with fruit, 2017

Artist Bree Burchfield - the beginning of girls with fruit, 2017

Tapp’s Art Center and Planned Parenthood South Atlantic are hosting Figure Out this month, their annual art exhibit that celebrates the human body. Thursday night, as part of First Thursday on Main, Figure Out will hold its first public event of the year, a figurative nude art show that is free and open to the public. What’s a figurative nude art show? It’s a show that gives artists the option to display non-censored, full frontal nudity in a judgment free environment, making it one of the only shows of its kind presented annually in South Carolina.


The event, located at Tapp’s on Main, will begin Thursday evening at 6:00 p.m. and go until 10:00 p.m. The works presented will showcase talent from local photographers, painters, sculptors, mixed media artists, and more. Over 40 artists participate each year, and a minimum 50% profit of all artwork sold goes to the artist.


An event that is willing to display the human body without censorship is immensely important. Founder of Figure Out, Molly Harrell, says this event is close to her heart because it both, “supports the mission of Planned Parenthood, which is to empower individuals to make independent, informed decisions about their sexual health and reproductive lives,” and “promotes body positivity [and] equality for all people regardless of gender, gender identity, and sexual orientation.” Beyond promoting these themes, the event also gives artists the freedom to express themselves and their experiences involving the human body.


How did an event this significant begin in Columbia? It all started in 2010 when Harrell attended RE: Nude, a figurative nude art show in Charleston that celebrates the human body and benefits Planned Parenthood. Harrell, being a passionate photographer herself, knew this was an event she wanted to participate in, so she brought it to Columbia and, with help from the community, rebranded it under the name Figure Out.


Many people have helped Harrell along the way. Tapp’s has been hosting since 2013 when the event began, and this year Harrell is working with Brittany Pringle from Planned Parenthood and the Executive Director at Tapp’s, Caitlin Bright, to bring the event to life for a 6th time.


The figurative nude art show on Thursday may be the central public event, but it doesn’t stop there. On Wednesday, September 19 at noon, a free panel on art and sexuality will be conducted. An RSVP is not required to attend the event, but those who RSVP in advance will be provided a light lunch. The panel will be an effervescent discussion of art and sexuality featuring artists, educators, coalition partners, and media.


The event closes out on Thursday, September 27 at 5:30 p.m. with beer, wine, and live entertainment. This closing reception is an opportunity for anyone to purchase art and enjoy cocktails and music before the show ends. 


While there are several events, Thursday’s exploration into the human body will be unforgettable, so you’d be wise not to miss it! There’s no fee or RSVP needed, so be sure to come join us Thursday night to explore and celebrate our bodies in their purest forms.


For more information on the events, check Figure Out’s website at www.figureoutppsat.org

artist - Bree Burchfield - untitled

artist - Bree Burchfield - untitled


Did you know that the Jasper Project is an all-volunteer organization that relies on contributors and sponsors to do the work we do, such as publish Jasper Magazine?

We need your Jasper Guild membership fees to make our world go round.

Please visit


and join or renew your membership in the Jasper Guild today.

You'll drink for free at the Jasper release party on September 21st at Stormwater Studios AND you'll see your name in that very issue of

Jasper Magazine.

And, you'll be a part of a pretty fabulous project in Columbia SC that is going into it's 8th year of supporting arts and artists because of people like YOU!


Artist Profile: Olga Yukhno by Hallie Hayes

Olga Yukhno's gallery show opens on Thursday night at Anastasia & Friends Gallery and will be up throughout the month of September

artist Olga Yukhno

artist Olga Yukhno

Art is a trade embodied by many around the world; Olga Yukhno clearly displays this.


Olga Yukhno is an artist from Pyatigorsk, Russia, and is the current Gallery Director at The University of South Carolina’s McMaster Gallery.  It is back in her native country where she began her journey as an artist.


As a student at Pyatigorsk State Linguistic University, Yukhno received a Bachelor’s degree in Linguistics and a Master’s degree in Education and Psychology.  However, she continued to pursue her love for art.


Yukhno focused a lot on enameling, using metal work tools that her father had made for her.  She fell in love with Juxtaposition within her art and continued to show this throughout her work.  While in Russia, Yukhno apprenticed under distinguished artist and enamellist Nikolai Vdovkin.  It was here where Yukhno experienced some of her most formative years as an artist.


In 2008, Yukhno moved to the United States where she continued her journey as an artist.  She realized that she no longer had the resources needed to continue enameling, and decided to expand into new mediums.  Yukhno loves making complex and intricate pieces; “I love detail.  I think I’m not capable of making something simple.”  This was one factor that led her to the decision of expanding into 3D-figurative work.


Yukhno says, “It was a very intimidating process for me because it just seemed to be so complicated and intricate, and I was not even sure I was capable of that.  So, I was able to take a class and it changed my, it changed my world because I tried it and I loved it!”


Yukhno has been working with 3D-figurative art for two years now.  It is in this work that she finally feels as if she has found her voice.

olga 4.jpg

Yukhno’s degree in psychology greatly influences her current work and brings about pivotal questions relating to the human mind.  She correlates her interest in humanity and human psychology with her figurative sculptures.  It is in this that she will be introducing her first 3D-figurative art exhibition, What Moves Us?


What Moves Us? is a solo art exhibition hosted by Anastasia & Friends, displaying Yukhno’s 3D artwork.  The show will open on Thursday, September 6, at 6:00pm and will last until 9:00pm.  The theme of this show is the motivation of people, where Yukhno displays the questions that rest in her mind relating to the motivation of humanity through her artwork.  She enjoys thinking and analyzing different aspects of human psychology, and this can be seen through her intro exhibition.


 Yukhno is very fascinated with denial and how it works.  She finds it interesting how we sometimes recognize when we are in denial, yet we choose to not see it.  She also finds interest in how society influences us as individuals.

olga 3.jpg

Yukhno says, “I’m extremely interested in the influence of society on us and how we influence on each other, and the issues of judgment … it’s fascinating how some people strive to resist it, but most people don’t, and it makes me wonder why and how, and what makes us give up or what makes us just keep plowing through, refusing to give up.”


These are the ideas that can be expected to be seen through Yukhno’s 3D-figurative sculptures found in the What Moves Us? exhibition.


This is just one of many things Yukhno has planned.  While she will continue with sculpture, she also wants to expand into instillations and collaborative work, bringing in more ideas of societal influences, but also of political and social issues.


Be on the lookout for this talented artist. One can expect more to come from Yukhno in the future.


Did you know that the Jasper Project is an all-volunteer organization that relies on contributors and sponsors to do the work we do, such as publish Jasper Magazine?

We need your Jasper Guild membership fees to make our world go round.

Please visit


and join or renew your membership in the Jasper Guild today.

You'll drink for free at the Jasper release party on September 21st at Stormwater Studios AND you'll see your name in that very issue of

Jasper Magazine.

And, you'll be a part of a pretty fabulous project in Columbia SC that is going into it's 8th year of supporting arts and artists because of people like YOU!


REVIEW: Jon Tuttle's Boy About Ten at Trustus Theatre

A talent for drama is not a talent for writing, but is an ability to articulate human relationships.” 

-Gore Vidal

Boy about ten.jpg

John Tuttle is, by any standard, a man with a talent for writing, but after seeing the world premiere of his play, Boy About Ten, I can affirm that he is also quite adept at articulating human relationships. Indeed, the oft-troubled intertwining of Boy About Ten’s dysfunctional, but (somewhat) connected nuclear family of four, drives the plot of Tuttle’s work, taking a well-written piece to the level of a performance bristling with all the sharp edges relationships can provide. This is not to suggest that the production currently running at Trustus is without laughter or light-hearted moments. It may be a tragicomedy, but Boy About Ten doesn’t hesitate to let the tragic cede the stage to the comedic in a legitimate, story-faithful way. In his program notes, Trustus Artistic Director, Chad Henderson, comments that “this play has undergone a more involved development process than our previous Playwrights Festival winners or commissions,” which no doubt contributed to the feeling of polish and streamlining found in the script. I managed to make notes on some of the truly standout lines, but by no means is my list comprehensive.


The play opens with D’Loris (Lonetta Thompson), a kindhearted but world-weary social worker, dealing with what is clearly a family in distress. She is trying to prepare Todd (Tommy Wiggins), the elder son, to go to his mothers’ house for a week. Todd is obviously troubled in multiple ways, but is largely nonverbal, using a set of oversized headphones to drown out the conflict which surrounds him, while hiding his face behind his chin-length bangs.  As usual, Thompson creates a fully-realized, textured character, who has flaws as well as sincerely caring nature. I never tire of seeing Thompson onstage, as she is always completely immersed in and committed to her character and the moment. It would have been the easy way out to depict D’Loris as either a hyper-idealistic Wonder Woman, or as a “honey, I’ve seen it all,” world-weary cynic, but Thompson chose to create someone in-between, and in the process, gave the audience a layered, complex, and realistic performance. Kudos also to Wiggins, a former Trustus Apprentice Company member, making his mainstage debut. Though Todd doesn’t speak much, especially in the early scenes, his body language, movement style, and a sort of self-embrace clearly establish him as a damaged human being, doing his best to avoid his psychic pain. When it is revealed that he is a self-cutter/burner, it is a bit of a shock, but totally believable for the character he has, by that point, made three-dimensional. I suspect we’ll be seeing much more of Wiggins on the Trustus stage in seasons to come, and I look forward to watching his development as an actor.


The arrival of Tammy (Jennifer Hill), lightens the mood by, ironically, introducing the least likeable of the five characters. Hill’s Tammy is brash, flashy, loud, and obnoxious, fancying herself far above the rest of the family. She dresses herself in designer clothing, while a couple of mentions are made of the kids’ clothes coming from Goodwill, and she personifies the cliche of the “helicopter parent,” dispensing screechy advice and criticism thinly veiled as “encouragement.” Hill’s comedic timing is absolutely spot-on, and she brought Friday night’s house down with such well-penned verbal spewings as “I was once a Sweet Potato Queen, now I’m a Cyclops!” (It seems that Tammy has a glass eye, which is broken, requiring her to wear an eye patch.) Clearly proud of her somewhat meager accomplishments, she touts having played Yum-Yum in a community college production of The Mikado, along with a few other small successes, in an attempt to impress D’Loris, who is eventually prompted to ask “what the hell is wrong with you people?” The moments of conflict between Tammy and D’Loris establish a curious dynamic. Tammy, in her own twisted, control-freak way, wants the best for her children, while D’Loris tries to help establish exactly that, which eludes the self-centered Tammy.

One gathers fairly quickly that Tammy is at her ex-husband’s house to swap out the younger son, Timmy, (Daniel Rabinovich), who is a straight-A, rule-abiding, do-gooder, complete with Webelos Scout uniform, and practically a stranger to Todd, and the two react somewhat cautiously to each other. (I may have missed an important line or mention of the situation, but it is clear that the brothers have not spent much time together.) Rabinovich demonstrates an actor’s sensitivities quite impressively, especially for a young actor. His character arc may well be the most dramatic in terms of growth and change, and he handles it like a true pro. As with Wiggins, this is a young man to watch.

Once all is settled, Timmy is left alone with his father, Terry. Played by Trustus mainstay, Paul Kaufmann, Terry is an affable, childlike n’ere-do-well, whose love for his sons manifests in an “at my house, there are no rules” dynamic. (When asked by Timmy if they can attend an Imax film or visit the Planetarium, Terry immediately scoffs at the thought of an educational outing, at least in the traditional sense.) Kaufmann, without ever breaking the established reality of the play, or mugging to the audience, brought to life an enchanting man-child, reminiscent of Tom Hanks in Big, with a dash of Bertie Wooster and Falstaff tossed in. To Timmy’s growing amusement, the two of them chug Cheerwine (no sodas allowed at Tammy’s house), fight ludicrous pretend war games against “Vagicilla, Dark Queen of the Nether Regions” (inspired, no doubt, by Tammy), and Timmy frequently receives his father’s military decorations, which may or may not be legit. It was at this point that I began to wonder about the show’s eponymous title. Was Timmy the Boy About Ten, or was his father? Had the parent/child dynamic between them already shifted before the action of the play began? Kaufmann, incidentally, scores one of the biggest laughs in the show while telling Timmy about his days in an ersatz KISS cover band. “You can always tell when chicks dig you. They chew their gum at you…like meat!”


A brief in-one scene gives us our sole glimpse of life at Tammy’s house, when the focus is, both literally and figuratively, on Todd, who is passively receiving an unwanted haircut from his mother. A special tip of the hat to Lighting Designer Laura Anthony, for transforming a simple floor lamp into a “where were you on the night of the robbery?” beacon. This is an occasion upon which the lighting truly made the scene for me. We, the audience, are semi-blinded by the intensity of the same light shining into Todd’s eyes, and subject to the same jabber from Tammy. Like a police officer in a bad, made-for-TV crime drama, she prattles on and on about how Todd should want to be “normal” and make friends “like all the other boys,” painting a Leave It To Beaver lifestyle, which will supposedly emerge with a haircut and a suit from Goodwill. Interrogation/indoctrination and “tough love” establish an uneasy coexistence at Tammy’s house, and the two children she raised reflect that. Timmy’s unblinking obedience earns him praise, so he obeys. Todd, whom I assumed to be somewhere on the autism spectrum, is unable to deal with what his senses perceive as blinding light and a barrage of impossible commands. Though short, this scene impacted me. I began to wonder through whose eyes we were seeing any given situation, and then viewing each scene from each character’s angle. Thank you, Jon Tuttle, for this (I’m guessing) three-page scene, which widened the lens through which I saw the rest of the play. Though she was the antagonist of the scene, it allowed a glimpse into Tammy’s desperate desire for a “normal, happy, family,” and humanized her for me.


I won’t go into too much detail about the second act, as it is, essentially, a minefield of spoilers, and much of what happens requires the elements of shock and surprise to work. While not without laughs, the second act takes a somewhat darker turn, with a grim family story, involving animal abuse, being revealed. (*While no violence is depicted onstage, a gruesome monologue could be mildly to moderately triggering for some.*) Terry childishly endangers his and Timmy’s lives at the end of act one, the aftermath of which, we see in act two. Todd returns, neatly trimmed and besuited, but still distant, albeit with the occasional smile of hope. Toward the end of the play, we discover that Terry suffered physical wounds far worse than Timmy’s while saving the boy from the dangerous results of his (Terry’s) recklessness. Romantic impossibilities are pondered and argued, D’Loris loses another crumb of her idealism, but hangs on to hope, Timmy takes his first step toward adult cynicism, Tammy reveals some game-changing information, and the family is left as we found them; bruised and battered, but oddly okay. The playwright leaves us with the idea that life will simply go on, and with the insanity and bizarre love in this family, who can even speculate on the eventual outcome?


Director Patrick Michael Kelly has taken an artfully written play, refined by much workshopping, and brought to the stage a world of slightly-heightened reality, never losing sight of the connecting themes of family and what it truly means to care for someone.


So, who is the Boy About Ten? I have my suspicions that each character, with the exception of D’Loris (who serves as the impartial observer and voice of reason) is that boy. Perhaps that answers my earlier question, and tips us off that the show is seen from D’Loris’ perspective.

Boy About Ten is an engaging, thought-provoking, and most enjoyable play, and a worthy addition to the Tuttle ouvre. Only four performances remain, so get your tickets now!

-- Frank Thompson


Tickets can be purchased online at Trustus.org , or by calling the Trustus Theatre box office on 803.254.9732
Remaining performance dates are:
Wednesday, August 22 – 7:30pm
Thursday, August 23 – 7:30pm
Friday, August 24 – 8:00pm
Saturday, August 25 – 8:00pm
Frank Thompson is the theatre editor for Jasper Magazine - contact him at flt31230@yahoo.com



The Jasper Project is a non-profit all-volunteer organization that provides collaborative arts engineering for all disciplines of arts and artists in the South Carolina Midlands and throughout the state. Please help us continue to meet our mission of validating the cultural contributions of all artists and growing community within the arts by becoming a member of the Jasper Guild .  We'll print your name in the magazine, thank you on social media, and love you forever!



JASPER MAGAZINE Release & Constance Preview Schedule of Events




Jasper theatre logo.jpg


Doors Open, Supper Starts, Silent Auction is Live, & Magazines are Hot!!



Cover Artist Ansley Adams Gives Artist Talk in Gallery



Concert by Daniel Machado and Adam Corbett



Official Preview – Constance – The Musical



Performance by The Watering Hole

Auction Closes at Intermission End



Kyle Petersen Interview with Chad Henderson, Daniel Machado                    & The Restoration






Please note - tickets to this event are offered at a $10 savings over regularly priced shows.

OR ...

Join the Jasper Guild by 6 pm on May 3rd and receive a FREE ticket to the event!


REVIEW: Proof by the Newberry Community Players Makes the Drive Worthwhile

“If I go back to the beginning, I could start it over again. I could go line by line; try and find a shorter way. I could try to make it... better.” - David Auburn, Proof


There are times when really fine art happens in an elegant theatre with velvet curtains, lush seats, champagne in the lobby, and thousands of people sharing the experience with you. And there are other times when the mustiness of an old theatre is almost overwhelming, your seat is tentative at best, you’re drinking a fuzzy navel wine cooler, and few more than two dozen people share the space. And I’m here to tell you that setting in no way lessens the art if the art is good. And the art was good last night at the Ritz Theatre in downtown Newberry where the Newberry Community Players presented Proof, a play by David Auburn.

Really good.

Directed by Courtney Cooper, a recent Pennsylvania transplant to Chapin, Proof is an older play – it premiered in 2000, winning the Pulitzer and multiple Tony Awards in 2001 – that still holds up well due to the tightness of the dialogue and the timelessness of issues it both touches on and full out embraces, including family dynamics, mental health, gender inequality, and more. In the less than two decades since the play came out our cultural acceptance of (and curiosity about) the vast spectrum of mental health, idiosyncrasies, and function has changed exponentially as we recognize a much broader spectrum of mental capabilities and nuance than ever before. The story of a family both dealing with the end game of mental health issues for Robert, the family’s patriarch, and possibly (fearfully) also looking at the beginning of the same issues for Catherine, the youngest daughter, Proof  is offered in two acts with the single simple set of a back porch and small yard. Additional characters are Claire, an older daughter/sister, and Hal, Robert’s graduate student. With the exception of Claire, all the characters are high level mathematicians and the primary conflict is the discovery (proof) of who wrote a ground breaking proof about prime numbers.

Having seen this story twice before – once on Broadway when the lead role of Catherine was played by Anne Heche and that of Hal was played by Neil Patrick Harris, aka Doogie Howser, and again on film when the respective roles were played by Gwyneth Paltrow and Jake Gyllenhaal – it was impossible not to compare the treatment of the characters by both the director and players. For my money, I’d readily toss both the brooding Paltrow and the manipulative Heche off the stage in exchange for the honesty and vulnerability Amy Brower brings to the part. Where both stars created a sense of annoyance in the viewers, probably due to the difficult personalities they created in the character of Catherine, Brower portrays a character with which one can identify and empathize. I felt the anxiety of her fear that she, too, may carry the same imperfections as her father. (With Heche and Paltrow, I almost wanted them to!) Her body language and costuming also helped move the story 18 years into the future.

Playing the role of Robert, Catherine and Claire’s mathematical genius of a father, Lee O. Smith took great pain, too, in making the character his own, offering theatrical skills one would never expect to find in a musty old theatre in Newberry. The scene in which Catherine ultimately reads from his notebook and the response Smith gives was nothing short of mesmerizing. In many ways Smith channels Kevin Pollock if Pollock were a better actor.

Tabitha Davis plays the role of Claire, the older sister you love to hate, with admirable smugness and condescension and Brava to her for that, while Sam Hetler in the part of Hal, is the man-boy you want to do the right thing by Catherine. We’ve seen Hetler’s work behind the scenes at several theatres in town and it was good to see him front and center where he belongs.

Proof runs through February 24th at the Ritz Theatre at 1511 Main Street in Newberry and tickets are only $12. For more information go to theritzonline.com or call 803-597-1636.


-Cindi Boiter

5 Questions for Thomas Crouch

He's Back...

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Artist Thomas Crouch is a native of Columbia, SC artist who has paintings in private collections on five continents. Having studied figurative oil painting, figurative drawing, and art theory at the Lorenzo De Medici School of Art in Florence, Italy, Thomas obtained a BA in Art Studio from the University of South Carolina in 1997. Jasper has had the honor of featuring Crouch’s work both on the cover of the magazine as well as in a number of articles. After having been MIA from the Columbia art scene for a bit, Crouch is back in town and we caught up with our friend to get the scoop on where’s he’s been and where he’s going. 


Here are 5 questions for Thomas Crouch.


Jasper: So, you've been painting out west and up north for the past little bit -- tell us where you've been and what you were up to.

Crouch: Yes I had been looking in to residencies and other opportunities to further my painting for a couple years. In 2016 I was invited to participate in the first Sedona Summer Colony in Sedona Arizona, by Sedona Arts Council Director Eric Holowacz.  Eric was an old friend from High school days and invited lots of artists from around the world that he knew and I’d worked with over the years. So we were kind of the first test to see how it could work.

They are in their third year now. Many artists like Max Earnst, Georgia Okeefe, etc worked in the area and I believe had stayed at the same campus we used. So it was nice to be in such a beautiful historic and art centered place.

After a month I moved to the Hudson Valley area to Millerton NY to attend another residency. That residency moved to Hudson NY and was a bit far for me so I just got a job on a farm and rented a small house from my sister who lives in Brooklyn. My brother in law is a sculptor so we share a studio space there. I showed in some galleries in Massachusetts and NYC which are close to Millerton. I spent the first winter there and got a job at a nice restaurant that was co-owned by Jasper Johns when the farm closed. This past winter I was accepted to Con Artist Winter Residency in Lower East Side NYC so I’ve been living and working there since November.

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Jasper:  Can you talk about some of the ways you've grown or changed as an artist during this time

Crouch:  In Millerton there’s not much to do but it’s very beautiful so I don’t mind it all. I wanted to concentrate on my painting so it’s the perfect spot. Working at Con Artist in the city was great in a polar opposite way. Working with other artists forced me to explain my work more and having access to galleries and museums was very rewarding. The fast pace loosened my work up a bit I think. My work is becoming more mixed media based and drawing plays more of a role in making the image.

Meeting new artists has open up doors too. I’m still a member at Con Artist and can still show at their exhibits and use the space. Showing at Art Basel Miami at the Con Artist Booth is a good example of opportunities available. Also I did some pieces for Insta Fame Phantom Art which is sort of a guerrilla street art project in the subway trains. So I’ve definitely been exposed to new methods of showing art. 

Jasper:  What about some of the ways you've stayed the same?

Crouch:  Hmmm, I still like southern food. It’s nice being from SC and explaining it to people. Charleston cuisine is a big topic and is very popular now. I made a lot of barbeque at the restaurant I worked at. And explaining boiled peanuts is always fun. 

Jasper: What is the main lesson you've learned?

Crouch: If you go for it 100% success is easier to find. And to constantly look at other artist’s work and talk to them about it. 


Jasper: Now, what are you bringing back to Columbia?

Crouch: The work at Frame of Mind is all of the remaining work I did at Con Artist in Manhattan. Three pieces sold so the remaining 14 are on display plus three that I did in Millerton.  The opening is 6-9  at 140 State St. in West Columbia on Friday 2/16. (That’s tonight!) 

Caustic Bucolic –

These pieces are from my work at Con Artist Collective in Lower East Side Manhattan, NY from November 2017-January 2018. Working in a shared studio space, I expanded my use of blueprints, animals, and current events by working alongside other artists. This allowed my work to more succinctly articulate a metaphorical investigation of human nature.


People relate to animals in a variety of ways. With figures of speech, they use animals to explain mundane occurrences of everyday life. In instances of self-identification, people use animals as a source of spiritual power. The first civilizations depended on animals for agriculture, sustenance, and protection. In ancient mythologies animals are used to represent deities. In religious texts a God may take the form of an animal.


This work encapsulates this progression of thought. Caustic Bucolic invites the viewer to consider their natural world. 


A show at Loft At 115 (115 S. Palmer Street, Rideway, SC) is up through February and showcases work I did in Sedona as well as more ravens. Two pieces have sold and I’m excited to show that work as it has never been exhibited outside of Arizona. 


I’m also working on a window at Tapps. My idea is to transform the window into an aquarium. I got the idea from the pieces I did for Insta Fame Phantom Art in NYC where I painted Octopus on the add inserts on the subway cars. 


REVIEW: Columbia City Ballet's Off the Wall and Onto the Stage by Susan Lenz

Dancing the Art of Jonathan Green

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For me, writing a review of a one-night-only performance is difficult, especially since my viewpoint is as an expert audience member. No matter what I say, there’s no chance for others to attend the show to agree with me or not. So, I’m approaching this review from another angle. I’m comparing last Friday, February 9th performance of Off the Wall and Onto the Stage: Dancing the Art of Jonathan Green to earlier productions of the same show. I’m hoping that this article will explain why the public should see any ballet more than once. Ballets, even the classical ones, change over the years, from season to season, from cast to cast, through new costuming and staging and even through new choreography.


Columbia City Ballet’s Off the Wall has undergone plenty of changes since it’s 2005 premier. I attended that lavish February 4th opening at the Koger Center and largely agreed with the New York Times review which stated, “The evening seems short on specifics of Gullah life, let alone the evocation of actual characters” and went on to note a lack of coherence in the choreography and a disconnect between the two acts. That was thirteen years ago. 


Since that time, Artistic Director William Starrett has been polishing the show. In fact, this signature production is occasionally presented in a scale-down version as it was during the summer of 2014 for the 39th annual national assembly of The Links Foundation, an international nonprofit. That forty-two minute performance outside Washington, DC for an audience of 4,000 earned the company $50,000.  The first act vignette, “Love of the Harvest” to Marlena Smalls’ “Carry Me Home,” is frequently performed alone. I saw Amanda Summey and prima ballerina Regina Willoughby dance this remarkably touching piece last month in remembrance of Coralee Harris, a long-time arts supporter and former chairman of the board for the ballet company.  Basically, Off the Wall has been an active part of Columbia City Ballet’s repertoire since it debuted and is constantly being refined. 


The second time I saw the production was in 2011. Changes, especially in the second act, improved the experience. Individual personalities better emerged in the Silver Slipper Dance Hall and an interior church scene was added as a final number. Jonathan Green’s paintings, dance, and choral music brought the audience to a standing ovation then and again last Friday night. 


I generally complain about Columbia’s audience rising to their feet when the curtain falls as if a requirement, but it was impossible to stay seated in the crescendo of energy brought about by dancers popping up and down in their pews to high-spirited vocals by Elliott Hannah and singers from the Claflin University Gospel Choir, the University of South Carolina, ATOF, and Benedict College.  The show ends very, very well, especially in a space as open as the Township Auditorium. Audience and performers melded into a singular celebration.  It was terrific.


Other highlights include billowing fabric from which Regina Willoughby magically appears, Maurice Johnson striking a pose so perfectly that it suggests he modeled for Jonathan Green’s Fishing Break, and Amanda Summey’s feisty character in “He Treats Your Daughter Mean”. It was also a pleasure to see guest principal dancer Paunika Jones return to Columbia.


Most important to the success of this ballet is the way large-scale scrims of Jonathan Green’s painting really do come to life. Even from the 2005 debut, this difficult task worked. Translucent backdrops give way to specific places and characters. Yet, the spacious Township Auditorium seems to dwarf these backdrops when compared to their impact at the Koger Center. Fortunately, a multi-media projection off-set this spatial concern and actually showed even more of Jonathan Green’s low country images. Overall, the change in venue made the performance new and fresh.


The next time I see Off the Wall and Onto the Stage, there will be other changes.  How do I know this?  Well, in 2005 I had the pleasure of watching former prima ballerina Mariclare Miranda.  The New York Times liked her too, describing her as “an elegant classical dancer (who) proves that some exalted titles are not merely honorific.”  Later this season Regina Willoughby will retire, too.  Therefore, the future will bring another dancer to sizzle in Little Esther Phillips 1962 R&B hit “Please Release Me”.  I will look forward to that show.

Celebrating Jazz on Main Street - by Mike Miller

This First Thursday Jazz is the Main Event

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     Thirty years ago, a Columbia restaurant owner named Veron Melonas and his trumpet-playing pal Johnny Helms decided that Columbia needed a cool jazz party right on Main Street. Melonas owned the Elite Epicurean, a top-notch eatery right across the street from City Hall, and he said, “Why don’t we put the stage right outside?” Helms knew a lot of jazz players in New York, so he got on the phone and invited several of them down to the South Carolina capital city. Just like that, a jazz festival was born.

     “Jazz on Main” as it was called was first staged in July of 1987, and it ran for 10 years. One of the festival’s first performers, pianist Marian McPartland, called it “a true happening,” and it was pretty special. Musicians who came to Columbia during those years included trumpeter Clark Terry, saxophonist Jimmy Heath, guitarist Bucky Pizzarelli, and bassist Milt Hinton, just to name a few.

     To celebrate the 30th anniversary of that first “Jazz on Main” show, November’s First Thursday on Main will become a jazz festival of sorts. But this will not be a nostalgic event. It will showcase many of Columbia’s current crop of talented jazz musicians, players such as Mark Rapp, Tony Lee, Amos Hoffman, and Sam Edwards. Columbia jazz veterans such as Dick Goodwin, Danny Boozer, Robert Gardiner, and Jim Mings will also be performing.  

     Festivities begin at 6 p.m., and there will be live music at several locations on Main Street. Trumpeter Mark Rapp is the prime mover on Columbia’s contemporary jazz scene, and his quartet will be performing in the Main Street Public House. The guitar duo of Mings and Monte Craig will be in front of Mast General Store, and a revolving array of local jazz stars, including guitarist Hoffman, bassist Edwards, trombonist Mitch Butler, and drummer Boozer, will play on a stage in Boyd Plaza outside the Columbia Museum of Art. Add trumpeter Goodwin and the Tony Lee Group to the mix on Boyd Plaza, and you’ve got one of the most impressive collection of jazz players to come together in Columbia in quite some time.

     Back in 1987, there was an impressive array of jazz artists playing around town as well. Goodwin’s big band played weekly shows in a club called Greenstreet’s. Guitarist Terry Rosen and bassist Frank Duvall could be heard often at happy hour in the Five Points restaurant Garibaldi’s. But the most adventurous jazz happening took place on Tuesday night in Pug’s, a Five Points bar named after owner Pug Wallace. Weekly jam sessions there featured players such as drummers Reggie Ritter and Ted Linder, guitarists Mings and Rosen, trumpeters Al McClain and Helms, keyboardists John Drake and John Emche, and saxophonists Hans Tueber, Roger Pemberton, and a teenager named Chris Potter. For Columbia jazz fans, those nights in Pug’s were not to be missed.

     Today’s Columbia jazz scene is just as vibrant, and truth be told, it’s more diverse and active than its counterpart from three decades ago. Jazz can still be heard in Five Points at Speakeasy’s on Saluda Street. But the epicenter for jazz has moved uptown to places such as Public House on Main, Gervais and Vine, and Pearlz in the Vista.

     Other Columbia nightspots are featuring jazz nights, and there are many other exceptional musicians playing around town than just the ones mentioned above. It’s a great time for jazz artists and fans in Columbia, and that’s why it seemed like a good idea to revive the spirit of “Jazz on Main” and celebrate this cool, complex, and free-flowing music in the capital city.     

REVIEW: Barbecue at Trustus Theatre - Frank Thompson

“There’s a face that we wear in the cold light of day.
  It’s society’s mask, it’s society’s way,

  But the truth is that it’s all a façade…”


-Jekyll And Hyde: The Musical


   When Frank Wildhorn penned the above lyrics for his adaptation of the classic tale of The Strange Case Of Dr. Jekyll And Mr. Hyde over two decades ago, he probably didn’t anticipate them being used in the introduction of a review for a yet-to-be-written play about a family staging an intervention, but the song has been stuck in my head since seeing Friday night’s performance of Robert O’Hara’s Barbecue. As usual, Trustus Theatre has selected a multi-layered, thoughtful, and well-crafted piece of work to open the 2017-2018 season. It also happens to be hilariously funny at times, especially early on, as we are introduced to a series of social misfits gathering for a cookout/confrontation in hopes of persuading the meth-addicted Barbara (Christine Hellman and Devin Anderson) to get the help she desperately needs. Known also as “Zippity-Doo”, Barbara is the loosest cannon on a full deck; her would-be rescuers each have substance and/or personal issues, and the family is a nigh-stereotypical dysfunctional, lower-middle-class bunch.


   It would be impossible to adequately review the performance without revealing a few spoilers, so if you want to go in completely blind, stop reading now and take my word that Barbecue is well worth your time and money.


   If you’re still reading, I promise not to give away all of the surprises, but to avoid confusion, I’ll go ahead and say that each role is double-cast, with one family entirely African-American, the other entirely white. The two families are identically named and costumed, with only minor (or so it seems) differences between them. Both Barbaras are addicts, and the set-up for the intervention, etc., utilizes almost identical dialogue, with a few cultural colloquialisms and stylistic choices unique to each group. The first act alternates scenes between the groups, with a fairly close-to-real-time overlap until a big reveal at the end of the first act, at which point we realize that we’re watching a reality show onstage. (The TV series Intervention is actually mentioned several times). But which “reality” is real? Over drinks at intermission, several friends and I guessed what would happen as well as what was going on. We were all incorrect, which illustrates the artistry of the playwright in avoiding the obvious in a play populated by what seem at first to be two-dimensional characters.

   The show opens with a laugh-riot, profanity-laden, monologue by Christopher Cockrell as Barbara’s n’ere-do-well brother, James T., who wants nothing to do with any of it, yet is forced to set up for the party alone. Having seen Cockrell mostly in dramatic, serious roles, I was most impressed with his flawless comedic timing, as well as his ability to convincingly play a lowbrow redneck. It’s always enjoyable to see familiar faces in roles outside their personal norm, and Cockrell’s James T. is just that. Matching Cockrell’s stage presence and skill, Kendrick J. Lyles appears as the black James T., who, while slightly more laid-back, is the same scruffy, beer-swilling schlub as his white counterpart. One has a mullet, the other dreadlocks, but they’re both reluctant, unimpressed with the plan, and would rather be anywhere else.


   Krista Forster and LaTrell Brennan share the role of Barbara’s sister, Marie, who has plenty of her own secrets. As with Cockrell and Lyles, both performers manage to create the same character with just enough differences to keep things interesting. While each Marie is self-serving and hypocritical, Forster’s is a bit more aggressive somehow, with Brennan’s interpretation bringing out a slightly softer side. Rather than being a distraction, this adds another layer to the almost-but-not-quite-identical nature of the two families. One gets the idea that Marie is following fairly closely in Barbara’s footsteps, which is supported by slight differences in the two Barbaras that mirror the personality of each Marie. Kudos to director Ilene Fins for weaving such subtleties into the parallel universes.

   Trustus mainstay Elena Martinez-Vidal plays the white incarnation of Aldean, a chain-smoking opioid addict who is battling breast cancer. With her edgy, crass, and selfish nature, Aldean could easily be the most-disliked of this crew of undesirables, but Martinez-Vidal brings a raffish lovability to the role. She’s the cranky old aunt or neighbor lady whose nastiness is somehow endearing. Her counterpart, Mahogany Collins, is just flat-out hateful, with hilarious results. In the hands of a less skilled actress, this approach could have fallen flat, but Collins brings such sincerity to Aldean, you can’t help cracking up at her most venomous lines. This was my first time seeing her onstage, and I certainly hope it won’t be the last.

   Two more familiar faces on the Trustus stage, Dewey Scott-Wiley and Marilyn Matheus, provide what semblance of stability the family has in Lillie Anne, the harried organizer and driving force behind the intervention. It goes without saying that each of these seasoned pros turns in a solid, well-developed performance, but as an added layer to an already complex set of circumstances, the two Lillie Annes also helped define each family. Each has seen tragedy and loss, but seemingly from different directions. With Scott-Wiley’s Lillie Anne, there’s a slightly frantic quality which suggests a family in decline, while Matheus’ solid, no-nonsense Lillie Anne has the aura of someone who has pulled herself up beyond her beginnings. The script does not address the issue, but the performances suggest one person who is desperately trying to fix something broken, while the other is calmly determined not to let things get any worse.

   And of Barbara, herself? Well, that’s where things get complicated, and (SPOILER ALERT!!!!) once we discover that Hellman’s is the actual Barbara, the story splits open, and we see Anderson in her true identity: a successful singer who plans to conquer Hollywood by bringing Barbara’s story to life onscreen. (While in rehab, Barbara wrote a best-selling book about her experiences). In one of the show’s strongest scenes, the two play a game of cat-and-mouse over identity and reality, with Barbara claiming to have made up the entire story, which doesn’t seem to matter at all to the singer, who has her eyes on the Oscars and nothing else. Without giving away too much, I’ll just say that everything from race to sexual identity is addressed in the scene, with the overwhelming message being that reality is subjective and what you see isn’t always what you get. By the end of the scene, the two have merged in a way, and the audience is left wondering how many layers of deception and fakery just occurred, and if a “real” Barbara has faded into a pastiche of lies and re-writes. Hellman and Anderson manage to create just enough doubt about…well, almost everything. Watching their interaction and the game of one-upsmanship literally had me on the edge of my seat and figuratively doubting my sanity as each “revealed” something that may or may not have been true.

      By the end, all is made clear, but the path takes several more twists along the way, dropping in one or two more revelations that tie the two worlds together. The final moment of the show (which I won’t reveal) brought laughter from some, gasps from others, and a whispered-but-distinct “daaaaaaaamn” from someone in the row behind me. For a script which addresses and bases itself on relativism and skewed perspective, I can think of no better reaction. Barbecue is a fresh, thought-provoking, mind-twisting, funny, vulgar, and intelligent piece of theatre, with a strong cast and ambiguous storyline that leaves you scratching your head a little. It’s a perfect show for Trustus, and Artistic Director Chad Henderson is clearly committed to continuing the theatre’s goal of bringing new works of high quality to the stage. His opening night welcome to the audience included a tribute to his mentor, the late Jim Thigpen, whom I have no doubt would have taken great pride in Barbecue.


Frank Thompson is a graduate of The University of Alabama and Cumberland School of Law, who has made his home in Columbia since 2010. He has performed, taught classes, and/or directed with several local theatres, and co-writes a column for "The Good Life" blog for Goodwill Industries, along with his wife, Laurel Posey. His essay, 'Que, was featured in the 2014 edition of Fall Lines by Muddy Ford Press.



Patrick Kelly - Project Director for SYZYGY: The Plays

Columbia has a sneaky-good arts scene and many people are only beginning to realize that. – Patrick Kelly


As curtain time for SYZYGY: The Plays approaches, The Jasper Project would like to shine some light on the person responsible for making this all come together – Patrick Kelly, who has served as Project Director over the past several months, overseeing selecting directors, planning all the details of sound and lighting and rehearsal and staging, and answering to almost three dozen theatre artists embarking on a brand new arts adventure.

We are incredibly indebted to Patrick for lending us his expertise and thought you might like to know a bit more about the guy who is bringing it all together.


Jasper: Tell us briefly about how you got from Columbia to Chicago to NYC, and back to Columbia.


Patrick: After I finished undergrad at USC, I knew I wanted to pursue a career in theatre. I had several friends living in Chicago and knew the city had a large, proud theatre community. I took a quick trip there to check it out and loved it - it seemed much more accessible and welcoming than New York, and the Chicago theatre scene is focused on the ensemble - groups of like-minded people working together towards a shared vision. I spent four years acting, directing, interning, and training, and I’d recommend Chicago to anyone looking to immerse themselves in making theatre. While I was there, I was wanting to take the next step - to get a Master’s degree and the training I needed to make the most of a career in theatre - so I began applying to graduate schools. After a few years of trying, I was accepted into the NYU Graduate Acting Program. After school, I booked some regional work and struggled in the acting biz, but I continued to work on projects with my classmates, teachers, and friends. I always knew that I wanted to return to the southeast at some point and make theatre in places that didn’t have access to the arts in the way people in big cities do. I was looking for a way into teaching and an opportunity to teach at the college level in Columbia came up. I needed the experience, so I looked at the life I had in the city and thought about the life I knew I wanted. I thought, “Why wait?” and jumped on the job.


Jasper:  And what exactly are you doing now?

Patrick: I taught Theatre Appreciation for the last year and immersed myself in the theatre scene here in Columbia. I was invited to rejoin the company at Trustus Theatre and now I’m on staff at the theatre, serving as Production Manager. I’m also the General Manager of Lula Drake Wine Parlour.


Jasper: What shows have you been involved in since coming back to Columbia -- and what is on the horizon?

Patrick: I’ve appeared as an actor in last year’s Trustus Playwrights’ Festival winner Anatomy of a Hug and in this year’s production of Some Girl(s) at Workshop Theatre, and I directed this year’s production of Hand to God at Trustus. Up next, I’m directing next summer’s production of Boy About Ten at Trustus and I’ll continue writing for and performing with the Mothers - Trustus’s resident sketch and improv comedy troupe.


Jasper: What prompted you to take the position of Project Director for the Jasper Project's SYZYGY project?

Patrick: I’m passionate about new work for the stage, and about celebrating local artists and performers. Since this project features both, it was a no-brainer for me. I’m thrilled to facilitate the premiere of these plays and for so many local theatre artists to be seen.


Jasper: What have been your biggest challenges?

Patrick: Fitting the right people to the right project. Meeting the needs of 24 different people. Scheduling and running tech rehearsals for six projects in one day.


Jasper: Biggest rewards?

Patrick: Watching the birth of six brand-new works for the stage. Getting to employ so many artists at once.


Jasper: What do you think the audiences are going to be most surprised by when they see these plays?

Patrick: I think audiences will be most surprised with the diversity of voices represented not only in the writing but also on the stage performing it. Columbia has a sneaky-good arts scene and many people are only beginning to realize that.


Jasper: Why should people show up?

Patrick: It’s not every day you get to see six brand-new plays in one sitting.


Jasper: What else would you like to add?

Patrick: This is the beginning. Theatres are producing more and more new work and Columbia is catching the wave. Trustus Theatre will have three new works in this season alone. Expect to see more productions of new plays by local and regional playwrights. People want to see their stories and their issues reflected in their art and entertainment. Art makers are listening.


SYZYGY: The Plays

Thursday, August 17th at 7 and 10 pm

Tapp's Arts Center


For tickets to SYZYGY: The Plays visit https://www.tappsartscenter.com/event/syzygy-the-solar-eclipse-plays/


Patrick Michael Kelly is a theatre artist and educator. Patrick holds a BA in Theatre from the University of South Carolina and an MFA in Acting from the Graduate Acting Program at NYU/Tisch School of the Arts. He also trained at the South Carolina Governor's School for the Arts and Humanities, The Second City, Victory Gardens Theatre, and Trustus Theatre. Patrick has performed and directed at theaters in New York, Chicago, and along the East Coast including La MaMa E.T.C., Virginia Stage Company, WNEP Theater, Arundel Barn Playhouse, Workshop Theatre of South Carolina, and Trustus Theatre. Patrick is a proud member of Actors' Equity and a company member at Trustus Theatre, where he also serves on staff as Production Manager. 

Lindsay Rae Taylor Directs Futuristic SYZYGY Play VISITATION by Nicola Waldron

On Aug. 17, the Jasper Project will debut six plays in honor of the much-anticipated total solar eclipse that will grace Columbia skies. One play in particular, Visitation by Nicola Waldron, will transport the audience to future times and provide social commentary on the ongoing struggles of today and tomorrow.


The director of Visitation, Lindsay Rae Taylor, is a New York University alumna and current second-year MFA Directing Candidate in the Theatre Department at the University of South Carolina.


“I believe that Nicola has written an incredibly important and thought-provoking play. I am inspired with what she created from the idea of the eclipse—a happening that is rarely witnessed,” Taylor says. “I love how she uses the eclipse to note the passage of time and the change that is possible in our world before, after, and during such a unique event.”


Taylor describes Visitation as a timely piece that is set in South Carolina during May 2078. The play centers on the story of a mother fighting for a better life for her daughter—away from a misogynistic regime.


“The characters witness a solar eclipse and reveal to us what has happened in our world since our 2017 eclipse,” Taylor says. “It addresses the state of our nation and the possible repercussions should we continue on our current trajectory—specifically the effect it could have on women in our society.”


Visitation is set to feature some familiar faces from the pool of theatrical talent in SC. Marybeth Gorman Craig holds an MFA in Acting from the University of South Carolina and continues to act regionally while also teaching, directing, and performing at USC. She plays Mother in Visitation.


Kelsie Hensley recently graduated from USC’s Theatre Department where she was a featured actor in last year’s season. She plays Grace.


Dr. Andrea Coldwell is an Associate Professor of English from Coker College as well a veteran actor of Coker’s main stage productions. She plays The Custodian.


“We have a real powerhouse group of ladies in our rehearsal room, and it has been invigorating watching Nicola’s words come to life,” Taylor says. “When I had my initial meeting with Nicola, I felt we were kindred spirits, and I feel that energy among all of the women involved.”


Taylor says she loves that Syzygy marries art with science and encourages audience members to find perspective in thinking of one’s own place in the universe. Although she looks forward to the performance, Taylor anticipates speaking with individuals afterwards to learn how the play’s various messages and interpretations resonate.


“The piece has an ambiguity that I find thrilling. Nicola’s idea is frightening and relevant, and the poetry of her language is served from the extraordinary voices of this cast,” Taylor says. “It has been an enlightening journey and we are so excited to share this story with an audience.”

By Bria Barton

Tickets are at -- https://www.tappsartscenter.com/event/syzygy-the-solar-eclipse-plays/

Tickets are at -- https://www.tappsartscenter.com/event/syzygy-the-solar-eclipse-plays/

Bakari Lebby Directs Jon Tuttle & Cindy Turner's SYZYGY Play, One Another

Bakari (Kari) Lebby - photo by Singing Fox Creatives

Bakari (Kari) Lebby - photo by Singing Fox Creatives

by Jenna Schiferl


In astronomy, syzygy is the alignment of three celestial objects.  The origins of the word date back to as early as Ancient Greece, where the word suzugos meant ‘yoked’ and ‘paired.’


As part of the upcoming total solar eclipse celebrations in Columbia, The Jasper Project is launching a three-part series featuring South Carolina’s top poets, playwrights, directors, and actors.  SYZYGY will kick off on Thursday, Aug. 17 with a poetry invitational and book release at the newly renovated Richland County Public Library Auditorium.  Later that day will begin the SYZYGY: THE PLAYS. Six local playwrights were asked to create a 10-minute piece with three actors or less.  The only other requirement was that each performance includes two and a half minutes of “darkness” to continue in the theme of the solar eclipse.  Finally, the project will conclude with SYZYGY: POSTMORTEM, a panel discussion and reflection led by playwright Jon Tuttle and Columbia Poet Laureate Ed Madden.  The discussion will delve into topics such as the processes of culture transitioning to art and its effectiveness.


University of South Carolina graduate Bakari Lebby will direct Jon Tuttle and Cindy Turner’s drama, One Another.


Jasper executive and editor-in-chief Cindi Boiter approached Lebby to direct the play, who was immediately on board.


According to Lebby, One Another is incredibly relevant to the current political climate.


One Another is about trust and privilege. I believe it is a very timely piece,” Lebby says.  “I'm excited for people to view this piece and contemplate its relevance to this country and them personally.”


Although the play is limited to 10 minutes, Lebby and his team are working to create a fully developed and cohesive storyline.


“We're working hard to flesh out a full true story,” Lebby says.


The three actors featured in the play are Akida Lebby, Jason Stokes, and Avery Bateman.  Lebby emphasized the impressive cast when asked why individuals should be interested in seeing the play.


“We have veteran Trustus Company members and my little brother, so I think it's worth seeing their artistic prowess,” he says.  “I'm very stoked and thankful for this opportunity, and I hope we keep pushing the boundaries of theatre, art, and the culture of Columbia.”


Ultimately, the night will be one with themes of alignment, synchronization, and of course – darkness.


SYZYGY: The Solar Eclipse Plays will be performed at 7 pm and 10 pm on Thursday, August 17th with a reception honoring the artists at 9 pm. Tickets are $10 and are available at https://www.tappsartscenter.com/

Playwright Jon Tuttle   

Playwright Jon Tuttle


SYZYGY Director Paul Kaufmann Writes About Directing Terry Roueche's TWEETERS for The Jasper Project

Paul Kaufmann directs TWEETERS by Terry Roueche for SYZYGY: The Plays Thursday, August 17th at 7 and 10 PM   

Paul Kaufmann directs TWEETERS by Terry Roueche for SYZYGY: The Plays Thursday, August 17th at 7 and 10 PM


I got involved in Syzygy because Patrick Kelly emailed to ask me.  I immediately jumped on board.  I think the production of new plays is vital to making a more complete theater scene in Columbia.  Trustus's Playwrights Festival, which has been happening now for many years, has paved the way.  I have always believed that event should be expanded to include readings and stagings of other new works.   


Tweeters is, at least in part, about looking for something, someone, anyone to follow.  It's a short, funny take on the seriously disturbing use of social media by our country's leader. [Playwright] Terry Roueche has hidden some real commentary in what seems, on the surface, to be a short farce.  So I'd say it's a satire.


I have three extraordinary actors in my show.  Hunter Boyle plays Murdock, Eric Bultman is Fisher, and Tristan Pack plays Jones. This cast of three boast two actors who have earned MFA degrees (Boyle and Bultman). Pack is an excellent young actor who grew up performing in Sumter and who has done several plays in Columbia and at USC.  He's also a contractor to my company and has worked as an actor for me in Montana and elsewhere. Their chemistry as a trio is exciting.


We've had such a fun time exploring the levels and depths of this short piece. The brevity of the play has allowed us to run it more times than usual in each rehearsal, which really helps develop rhythm, comedy, and pace. I'm very happy with the work the actors have put into it.  We still have a few more rehearsals scheduled before Thursday.


I'm most eager to see how these actors will respond to having an audience and to see the audience's reaction to this Absurdist comedy. This type of play really speaks to the difficulty of finding the appropriate way to react to the political and social craziness of these times -- what other real choice to we have except to acknowledge the breakdown of dialogue, the lack of clear and controlled communication and the fear that permeates our current culture?  Yes, all that in ten minutes!


I want people to come so they can see local teams of theater people creating new work.  In and of itself, that's reason enough to attend The Syzygy Plays.  And no matter what one's taste in entertainment may be, I think these ten minute plays are a great way to see and sample work by dedicated artists.  I've not seen or read any of the other pieces, but I'm sure it will be an evening of varied and stimulating shows.



Paul Kaufmann is a Columbia-based stage and film actor, writer, voiceover artist, acting coach, visual artist and director. Directing credits include The Magical Medical Radio Hour, which he also wrote, funded in part by the Duke Endowment and Ho for the Holidays (also written by Kaufmann), The Testament of Mary and Season’s Greetings for Trustus Theatre. Most recently, he appeared in Trustus Theatre’s production of Hand to God as Pastor Greg.  In November/December 2016, he played The Actor in FUSIONS by Nic Ularu at LaMaMa Experimental Theater Club in New York, his fourth role there after The Cherry Orchard Sequel (NY Times Critics’ Pick), The System and Hieronymus (title role), all for Mr. Ularu’s UniArt Productions. Internationally, he’s performed in Wales and Romania with UniArt, in Australia with The Salvage Company and in Sicily with Florida State University. Recent Trustus credits include dialect coaching Grey Gardens and acting in Peter and the Starcatcher (Black Stache), Marie Antoinette (Revolutionary) and The Restoration’s Constance (Reverend Harper.) Other favorite shows there include: Assassins, Next to Normal, Dirty Blonde, I Am My Own Wife, August: Osage County, Side Man, Spinning Into Butter, Touch, Gross Indecency, The Last Night of Ballyhoo, Santaland Diaries, When Pigs Fly and The Most Fabulous Story Ever Told. Theatre South Carolina: King Lear, The Real Thing, The Illusion and The Country Wife. Pacific Performance Project/East: A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Mizu No Eki. Co-founder of HIT SEND Studio Theater with Marybeth Gorman. A founding company member of SC Shakespeare Company, he’s proud to have played Iago opposite his late best friend Greg Leevy’s Othello among other roles. He’s proud to have provided voiceovers for several productions at Columbia Marionette Theatre, including Snow White and The Wizard of Oz, in which he plays Scarecrow, Tin Man, Cowardly Lion and the Flying Monkeys.  He also does voiceover work for radio stations across the US. Film/television/web series: Preacher Feature, The Girl from Carolina, Season 2: God Bless New Dixie, Third Reel, Junk Palace and Campfire Tales. Paul is founder of a company that contracts actors utilized in scenario-based training for the FBI and other federal and state agencies across the country. He is a proud former student of Jim Thigpen, his life-changing high school theater teacher.

Tickets are available at Tapp's Arts Center   https://www.tappsartscenter.com/event/syzygy-the-solar-eclipse-plays/

Tickets are available at Tapp's Arts Center


Reverend Marv Ward Launches First Book of Poetry

One Lone Minstrel cover photo.jpg

It’s no secret that singer-songwriter, Marv Ward, a staple on the local music scene, aka Reverend Marv, has many tricks up his sleeve, and given his penchant for evocative lyrics it’s no surprise to find that poetry is among them.

On Wednesday night, June 21st, Ward launches his first book of poetry, One Lone Minstrel, under the Broad River Books label, an imprint of Muddy Ford Press, at Grapes and Gallery at 1113 Taylor Street, near the intersection of Taylor and Assembly. The event will begin at 6 pm with a reception honoring the author, followed by readings from 6:30 – 7. Ward will sign books form 7 – 8. Light refreshments will be provided with drinks available for purchase from the upstairs selection of wines and craft beers. The event is free.

Jasper caught up with Ward to ask a few questions about the path to this place in time.


J: Congratulations on your new book, Marv! How long have you been writing poetry?

MW: I’ve been seriously writing since high school.


J: Other than in songwriting have you shared your poetry with anyone before?

MW: Well, in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s, I was into writing poetry on walls and fences so I guess some people saw them but this is the first time anything has been in print.


J: Where do you look for inspiration?

MW: From everything, life experiences mainly. In the blues the old timers say that you have to live the blues to be able to write it and sing it and my poetry is the same.


J: Do you edit and rewrite your poems or do they come to you fully formed and you leave them be once they come to you?

MW: Both. Some times, I will get an idea or phrase and it will germinate sometimes for years until it finally comes to fruition. But sometimes they just write themselves.


J:  Who are some of your favorite poets and what is it you like about them?

MW: My biggest influence in poetry is Lawrence Ferlinghetti, I have devoured his work ever since I discovered him and was fortunate enough to meet him back in the early ‘70s and have a little chat with him. Then, I guess, Yeats, Baudelaire, Neruda, and I like Kerouac's poetry also.


J: How does it feel to launch this book?

MW:  I am amazed and feel so blessed this is a life accomplishment for me. I have had songs published since the ‘70s, but the poetry was different and I never thought this day would come. I really hope that those who read it will be able find a correlation in their lives with the meaning and rhythm of the words and be able to share the magic I felt when writing them.  



Author, Marv Ward

Author, Marv Ward